wss-17

The 17. SS-Panzergrenadier-Division Götz von Berlichingen was raised October 1943 from replacement units and conscripts.
It saw action against the US forces in Normandy from 10 June 1944 and suffered heavy losses. The surviving parts of the division refitted in the Saar during Sep and took of manpower from Heer and Waffen-SS stragglers.
It fought around Metz in October and Novenber before once again retreating to the Saar, seeing action there in December. It fought in Lorraine 1945 during the Nordwind offensive and in Mar it retreated towards Nuremburg.

Small elements from the division are believed to have been involved in the so called "Battle for Castle Itter" on 5 May 1945, a grand name for a small operation to recapture the Austrian Itter Castle in North Tyrol that had been captured by the US forces the day before. Its claim to fame is that part of the 41 men strong force defending the castle were 7 US soldiers from the 23rd Tank Battalion of the US 12th Armored Division, 14 French VIPs who had been held at the castle and 20 Germans.

Back in Kufstein, Lee picked up his reinforcements -- two tanks from his own outfit and five more from the 36th Infantry Division's 142nd Battalion. With Lee and Szymcyk went Lieutenant Harry Basse, Santa Ana, Cal., maintenance officer and the tanks' crews. At the town of Worgl the force paused. Lee, leaving the others behind, took his own medium tank with five volunteers, said goodbye to his rear-guard, and rumbled on to the castle, the faithful major trailing in his car.
Then began the classic defense of the ancient "schloss", which had not known battle since the days of crossbow and boiling oil. The defenders numbered 41 -- there were 20 soldiers of the Wehrmacht (German regular army), 14 French men and women, and seven Americans.
At 4 o'clock on the morning of May 5, a small force of SS men launched an attack up the slope toward the castle. American rifles and German light machine guns teamed up to beat them back. (5)

The survivors surrendered to US forces in Bavaria at the end of the war.

Known war crimes

Soldiers from this unit were involved in the killing of two American airmen in Montmartin en Craignes, France, 17 June 1944. Erwin Schienkiewitz was sentenced to life imprisonment for this crime in 1947.

In Graignes 25 wounded paratroopers from the 3rd Battalion, 507th Parachute Infantry Regiment, 82nd Airborne Division and 30 civilians were killed after the village was captured by 2. Bataillon of the SS-Panzergrenadier Regiment 38 under the command of SS-Sturmbannführer Nieschlag after two days of heavy fighting. (2)

Soldiers from this division are believed to have been responsible for the massacre in Maillé, France, on 25 August 1944 when 124 civilians were killed, this has however not been confirmed. (3)

Two soldiers were convicted post-war for shooting a civilian in Ebrantshausen, Holz for possessing a white flag on 28 April 1945.

One soldier of the division was accused post-war of shooting the Mayor of Burgthann for defeatism in the final days of the war and another one for shooting a Jewish dentist.

Oberst Dr Friedrich August Freiherr von der Heydte was CO of the Fallschirmjäger-Regiment 6 during the Normandy campaign and the below is a transcript of a secretly monitored conversation of him talking to other captured German officers in early 1945.

Another instance was the interrogation of an American captain. A battalion commander of mine was present and he rang me up from the battle headquarters of an Obersturmbannführer Pick [CO of 37th SS Panzergrenadier Regiment, 17th SS Panzergrenadier Division] — where the chap was interrogated — and said: ‘Please come here at once, Sir. There’s been some dirty work here.’ I thought that the enemy must have broken through or something, so I drove over there, and then he told me the following — I saw the unconscious officer lying there myself. A few people were sprinkling water over him. They had apparently stood him on a box up against a tree, tied his hands up behind him and then kicked the box away and interrogated him like that. That is contrary to all military honour. (4)

 

Lineage

SS-Panzergrenadier-Division Götz von Berlichingen (Oct 1943)
17. SS-Panzergrenadier-Division Götz von Berlichingen (Oct 1943 - May 1945)

Commander

SS-Gruppenführer Werner Ostendorff (30 Oct 1943 - 15 June 1944) (1)
SS-Standartenführer Otto Binge (17 June 1944 - 20 June 1944)
SS-Brigadeführer Otto Baum (20 June 1944 - 1 Aug 1944)
SS-Standartenführer Otto Binge (1 Aug 1944 - 29 Aug 1944)
SS-Oberführer Dr. Eduard Deisenhofer (30 Aug 1944 - ? Sep 1944)
SS-Oberführer Thomas Müller (? Sep 1944 - ? Sep 1944)
SS-Standartenführer Gustav Mertsch (? Sep 1944 - ? Oct 1944)
SS-Gruppenführer Werner Ostendorff (21 Oct 1944 - ? Nov 1944)
SS-Standartenführer Hans Linger (? Nov 1944 - ? Jan 1945)
Oberst Gerhard Lindner (15 Jan 1945 - 21 Jan 1945)
SS-Oberführer Fritz Klingenberg (21 Jan 1945 - 22 Mar 1945)
SS-Oberführer Georg Bochmann (? Mar 1945 - 8 May 1945)

Chief of staff

SS-Sturmbannführer Carl-Heinz Conrad (15 Nov 1943 - ? Apr 1944)
SS-Obersturmbannführer Kurt Hallwachs (3 Apr 1943 - ? May 1944)
SS-Obersturmbannführer Carl-Heinz Conrad (17 May Jan 1944 - ? Aug 1944)
SS-Sturmbannführer Max Linn (26 Aug 1944 - ? Nov 1944)
SS-Obersturmbannführer Hans Lingner (12 Nov 1944 - ? Dec 1944)
Major Kurt Graf von Bothmer (8 Dec 1944 - ? Jan 1945)
Major Wilhelm Krelle (6 Jan 1945 1945 - ? May 1945)

Quartermaster

SS-Sturmbannführer Bernhard Linn (? Jan 1944 - 1 Aug 1944)
SS-Sturmbannführer Hans-Friedrich Molderings (? Dec 1944 - ? Feb 1945)
SS-Sturmbannführer Heini-Helmut Grellmann (? - ?)
Major Schöneich (? - ? May 1945)

Area of operations

France (Oct 1943 - Jan 1945)
Southern Germany (Jan 1945 - May 1945)

Manpower strength

01 Dec 1943 4.125
31 Dec 1943 11.147
1 Mar 1944 10.236
1 Apr 1944 11.515
15 June 1944 18.354
30 June 1944 16.976
30 July 1944 8.530
16 Aug 1944 10.063
20 Sep 1944 14.816
31 Oct 1944 15.843
4 Dec 1944 4.000
15 Jan 1945 3.000
31 Jan 1945 16.173
2 Feb 1945 8.843
10 Feb 1945 13.252
28 Feb 1945 15.984
28 Mar 1945 11.313
7 Apr 1945 8.811

Honor titles

Götz von Berlichingen (1480 – 1562) was a knight immortalized by Johann Wolfgang von Goethe’s play of the same name. Von Berlichingen is also well known for his iron fist, a prosthetic appliance, which he received after he lost his hand during the Bavarian War of Succession in a battle near Landshut in 1504. This iron fist was also adopted as the symbol in the division’s shield.

Holders of high awards

Holders of the Close Combat Clasp in Gold (1)
- Hinz, Bruno, 05.09.1944, SS-Obersturmführer, Chef 2./SS-Pz.Gren.Rgt. 38
Holders of the German Cross in Gold (11)
Holders of the Honor Roll Clasp of the Heer (1)
- Müller, Heinz, 05.12.1944, SS-Hauptsturmführer, 3./SS-Pi.Btl. 17
Holders of the Knight's Cross (6)
Oakleaves
- Hinz, Bruno [559. EL] 23.08.1944 SS-Obersturmführer Chef 2./SS-Pz.Gren.Rgt 38 und Führer einer Kampfgruppe
NKiG : 05.09.1944 / DKiG : 17.04.1943
- Wahl, Kurt [720. EL] 01.02.1945 SS-Sturmbannführer Kdr SS-Pz.Aufkl.Abt 17
Knight’s Cross
- Gottke, Heinrich 27.12.1944 SS-Unterscharführer VB i. d. 3./SS-Flak-Abt 17
- Kuske, Ortwin 26.11.1944 SS-Untersturmführer Führer 3./SS-Pz.Aufkl.Abt 17
- Papas, Fred 27.12.1944 SS-Untersturmführer Kompanieführer i. d. SS-Pz.Aufkl.Abt 17
- Wahl, Kurt 23.08.1944 SS-Hauptsturmführer Adjutant SS-Pz.Gren.Rgt 38 und Führer einer Kampfgruppe

Order of battle

SS-Panzergrenadier Regiment 37
- Stab u. Stabs-Kompanie
- I. Battalion (1.-4. Kompanie)
- II. Battalion (5.-8. Kompanie)
- III. Battalion (9.-12. Kompanie)
- 13. Kompanie
- 14. Kompanie
- 15. Kompanie
SS-Panzergrenadier Regiment 38
- Stab u. Stabs-Kompanie
- I. Battalion (1.-4. Kompanie)
- II. Battalion (5.-8. Kompanie)
- III. Battalion (9.-12. Kompanie)
- 13. Kompanie
- 14. Kompanie
- 15. Kompanie
SS-Artillerie Regiment 17
- Stab
- I. Abt.
- II. Abt.
- III. Abt.
SS-Panzerjäger Abteilung 17
SS-Panzer-Abteilung 17
SS-Sturmgeschütz-Abteilung 17
SS-Flak-Abteilung 17
SS-Nachrichten-Abteilung 17
SS-Panzer-Aufklärungs-Abteilung 17
SS-Pionier-Bataillon 17
SS-Divisions-Nachschubtruppen 17
SS-Panzer-Instandsetzungs-Abteilung 17
SS-Wirtschafts-Bataillon 17
SS-Sanitäts-Abteilung 17
SS-Feldpostamt 17
SS-Kriegsberichter-Zug 17
SS-Feldgendarmerie-Kompanie 17
SS-Feldersatz-Bataillon 17

Officers serving in the Einsatzgruppen and Concentration Camps

Concentration Camps 15
(includes officers serving in the Einsatzgruppen or Concentration Camps either prior to or after service in this unit)

Insignia

The tactical marking of the division was the mailed fist of the knight Götz von Berlichingen.

The "Götz von Berlichingen" cuff title was authorized for this unit Oct 1943.
cuff-wss-gotz2
(Courtesy of Relics of the Reich)

In fiction

Directed by Mikael Salomon, the third episode of the 2001 TV miniseries "Band of Brothers", entitled “Carentan,” features an attack by armor and troops of the Götz von Berlichingen Division.

Soldiers of the Götz von Berlichingen division in France 1944
wss-17-france-1944
(Courtesy of Hjalmar)

Footnotes

1. Werner Ostendorff was badly wounded at Carentan 15 June 1944.
2. "Murderous Elite: The Waffen-SS and its complete record of war crimes" by James Pontolillo, page 58-59.
3. "Murderous Elite: The Waffen-SS and its complete record of war crimes" by James Pontolillo, page 80-81.
4. "D-Day And The Battle Of Normandy" by Simon Trew, page 289, UKNA WO 208/4177, Combined Services Detailed Interrogation Centre (UK) report GRGG 265, ’Report on Information from senior officer PW on 27 Feb — 1 Mar 1945, pp.7-8
5. "12th Men Free French Big-Wigs" by John G. Mayer in Hellcat News, vol 3, No 2, 26 May 1945.

Sources used

John R. Angolia - Cloth insignia of the SS
Georges M. Croisier - Waffen-SS (PDF)
Terry Goldsworthy - Valhalla's Warriors: A history of the Waffen-SS on the Eastern Front 1941-1945
Dr. K-G Klietmann - Die Waffen-SS: eine Dokumentation
Peter Lieb - Konventioneller Krieg oder NS-Weltanschauungskrieg?: Kriegführung und Partisanenbekämpfung in Frankreich 1943/44
John G. Mayer - 12th Men Free French Big-Wigs (in Hellcat News, vol 3, No 2, 26 May 1945)
Kurt Mehner - Die Waffen-SS und Polizei 1939-1945
Antonio J. Munoz - Iron Fist: A Combat History of the 17. SS-Panzergrenadier-Division "Götz von Berlichingen"
James Pontolillo - Murderous Elite: The Waffen-SS and its complete record of war crimes
Marc J. Rikmenspoel - Waffen-SS Encyclopedia
C.F. Rüter & D.W. de Mildt - Justiz und NS-Verbrechen (Nazi crimes on trial)
George H. Stein - The Waffen-SS: Hitler's Elite Guard at War 1939-1945
James C. Steuard - Tactical Markings of the Waffen-SS, Part III (in AFV News Vol 3, No 3)
Simon Trew - D-Day And The Battle Of Normandy (Haynes Publishing, 2012)
Gordon Williamson & Thomas McGuirl - German military cuffbands 1784-present
Gordon Williamson - The Waffen-SS: 11. to 23. Divisions
Mark C. Yerger - Waffen-SS Commanders: The Army, corps and divisional leaders of a legend (2 vol)

Reference material on this unit

Helmut Gunther - Das Auge der Division: Die Aufklärungsabteilung der SS-Panzergrenadier Division Götz Von Berlichingen
Antonio J. Munoz - Iron Fist: A Combat History of the 17. SS-Panzergrenadier-Division "Götz von Berlichingen"
Jean-Claude Perrigault & Rolf Meister - Götz Von Berlichingen (2 Vol)
Hans Stöber - Die Sturmflut und das Ende (3 Vol)

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